"There's something about this that is so black," Spinal Tap guitarist Nigel Tufnel said, considering the all-black cover of the fictional band's Smell the Glove record. "It's like how much more black could this be? And the answer is none. None more black." Russian coffee company Chernyi Cooperative also hopes that there are none more black. Not only does its own name translate as "black," it has started selling its slightly redundant Chernyi Black roast on the dark web and only on the dark web.
The Moscow-based bean roaster has set up an online marketplace accessible only with Tor, the software that allows anonymous browsing on sites that aren't otherwise accessible. (Yes, the darknet is what you remember from that Silk Road trial—and from the embarrassing "Gamergate" episode of Law & Order: SVU.) Customers who want to make the most complicated coffee purchase of all time can download Tor, visit Chernyi's dot-onion site, and then use Bitcoin or Qiwi to purchase a bag of coffee. After scoring the sort-of black market beans, buyers will receive the coordinates of the shop's physical location, where all purchases can be collected.
"There is a generally held perception in Russia that coffee is harmful and shouldn't be consumed on a daily basis," Chernyi Cooperative co-owner Artem Temirov told Adweek. "We love flipping stereotypes upside down and decided to confront this stereotype, about coffee being a drug, with the stereotype about Tor as a platform that exists solely for drug trafficking."
What the shop is doing isn't illegal ("We do pay taxes," Chernyi wrote on Facebook) but its appearance with the web's often illicit underbelly is undoubtedly raising even the most un-caffeinated eyebrows. It's also bringing some publicity to the once-struggling coffee collective. A year and a half ago, Chernyi was on the verge of closing its doors. Two of its co-founders had left the business, its coffee-subscription service had recently been scrapped, and its idea of reusing found (but sterilised!) bottles for its cold brew was met with nearly unanimous revulsion.
But Chernyi is still alive, probably because of Temirov's willingness to experiment with the unconventional. Earlier this week, a Facebook user commended Chernyi on using Tor to bring the underground to the masses. "The spirit of the underground [is] in every cup," the shop responded. None more black, indeed.